Album review- Cellar Darling- This is the Sound
By ANDREW McKAYSMITH
I’VE read a few comments from punters under You Tube videos and Facebook posts claiming that 2017 has been a barren year for metal. As far as I am concerned there are some outstanding releases this year… I actually feel that the metal genre itself is on something of an upward trajectory. Under each sub-genre there have been some clear signs that bands are both embracing technology and the means technology affords a band or artist to entice listeners to their work. In short… metal is becoming more accepting of the potential of innovation. The combination of new ideas, fresh sounds and a general sense that anything is possible makes 2017 feel a lot different.
If I were to use an example to support the previous paragraph, This is the Sound by Swiss band Cellar Darling is a worthy instance. Let me explain why…
Vocalist and hurdy-gurdyist Anna Murphy, guitarist Ivo Henzi, and drummer Merlin Sutter offer metal… but not as you know it on This is the Sound. The most obvious point of difference might be the addition of the hurdy-gurdy and some ethereal classical instrumentation however it is not the reason that I would entice a listener to the album.
The release is striking as it reminds me a lot of the what the Deftones could sound like if the outstanding guitarist in the band, Stephen Carpenter, were allowed to go the full metal hog by his bandmates.
Saturday Night Wrist (‘06) is by far and away my favourite release from Sacramento’s finest, yet it is a release that frequently finds itself anchored last on those click bait-esque “ranked worst to best” albums-from-artists-lists that entice one to waste five minutes of time letting someone else decide what albums are worthy. People didn’t, and still don’t relate to Saturday Night Wrist. The album itself was mired in The Deftones’ interpersonal dramas of the time and the tension is clearly heard across many of the albums cuts. The overlooked masterpiece happens to be the swan-song of bassist Chi Ling Dai Cheng, the bands brilliant bassist who was tragically injured in a car accident in 2008. He passed away in 2013.
The reason I love Saturday Night Wrist is that it takes David Lynch style detours as it builds to career defining track’s “Rats! Rats! Rats!”, “Combat” and “Kimdracula”. Those tracks are important as they contain the DNA of the Deftones best work… Stephen Carpenter’s guitar histrionics underpinning Chino Moreno’s unpredictable vocal. Cellar Darling’s excellent guitarist, Ivo Henzi, affords Anna Murphy’s beautiful vocal and lyrics the same courtesy across This is the Sound. Both bands share the same attention to detail, contrasting musical passages and sublime instrumentation.
There are significant passages across the album’s cuts where Henzi’s retrained yet testosterone-fuelled guitar playing support a soaring vocal from Anna. “Starcrusher” is a deep album cut highlighting the point. Anna’s Hurdy-gurdy playing captivates on this track… this is the musical passage prior to the verse that then reoccurs throughout the song while Henzi chugs away at a metallic riff. This passage summarises the core of the band’s instrumentation. Elsewhere, “Hullaballoo” offers a superb Hurdy-gurdy solo held aloft by Henzi’s black metal style guitar riffage and “Six Days” chugs and thuds before the listener is transported into string’s and things.
“Avalanche”, “Black Moon” and “Challenge” open the album and are also likely to be the tracks that the casual listener will identify with ease. All tracks feature video’s available via YouTube and should have converted many in the crowd as Cellar Darling open for Evanescence at the Summer Nights Open Air in Pratteln in July.
When I had a chat to Anna I complimented the band on their attention to detail. The album production, photos, social media posts and all videos are produced with quality in mind. The videos in particular feature themes relatable to the track they accompany… a casual view of random music videos on YouTube and Vimeo often produce a ‘what the…?’ moment…. Not so for Cellar Darling.
This is the Sound is an outstanding release. This could be the start of big things for Anna and her bandmates.